The Mids lost their first Army-Navy game since 2001 as they were overwhelmed by the Black Knights rushing attack last weekend in Baltimore. The struggles and impact of a long season were clear for all to see as this was simply not the same Navy team that had torn through the AAC on its was to the conference championship game just one week prior.
Here is a look back at the three keys against the Black Knights:
1) Win the rushing battle - Fail
Coming into this one the Black Knights had the No. 2 ranked rushing attack in the country at 328,9 yards per game, while Navy had the No. 3 ranked rushing attack in the country at 327.5 yards per game. Neither school was quite able to match those season average numbers on Saturday, but Army got much closer to the yardage total than Navy did and controlled the game as a result.
Navy simply could not get anything going on the ground during this game. CBS announcer Gary Danielson pointed out early on in the contest that the Navy version of the triple-option offense has become a quarterback run based scheme due to the work put in over the last few years by first Keenan Reynolds and then Will Worth. There is no way sophomore quarterback Zach Abey could have stepped in and matched that level of play, but the rushing attack picking up just 112 yards on 26 carries was very disappointing.
2) Control time of possession - Fail
Navy could not have considered in the run up to this contest that they would be so badly beaten when it came down to time of possession. The Black Knights held the ball for 40 minutes and 32 seconds, putting up a better than 20 minute time of possession edge over a Navy squad that had the ball for 19 minutes and 28 seconds of the contest.
Army was able to put up such a ridiculous disparity in terms of time of possession when looking at two triple-option teams by simply gaining so many more first downs than Navy. The final total of first downs was 23 to eight in favor of Army, but at one point in the contest that metric was in the Black Knights favor 14 to one. Army wore down Navy on defense while taking away running options for Navy on offense and forcing the Mids to either turn the ball over or punt it away.
One big reason for this was how Army was making Navy run the ball. Of the 26 Mids carries on the day 19 were runs by the quarterback and seven were by the fullbacks. Navy did not have a single outside run from the slotbacks, so there were no chunk yardage plays to be seen. Throw in the tiredness of the units and you can see how this quickly got away from the Mids.
3) Win on special teams - Push
Navy had one big failure on special teams when an Alex Batra punt early in the second quarter was shanked for just 15 yards, giving Army the ball at the Navy 46 yard line. You cannot give Army a short field like that as the key to beating the Black Knights is to make them use their limited offense to drive the whole length of the field to score. Outside of this, the Mids special teams outperformed the Black Knights and Navy was able to get a 28-yard Bennett Moehring field goal at the end of one of its drives, while Army had to turn down a 32-yard field goal at one point in the game because of its kicking woes. In the end though a
In the end though a slight edge on special teams was not enough for Navy to overcome Army in 2016.